Monday, September 30, 2013

Faire-y Tale

Lords and Ladies, gather 'round to hear a tale of a glorious day - a day beyond compare - the day a Garden Fairy, the Princess of Hearts, two Knights, and a Wizard sought out the company of the same at a grand Faire. 

Upon arrival at the Faire, the only thing the Garden Fairy wanted to do was Smite the Knight. After a brief conversation with the Dragon, who bestowed on her his blessing and a shiny necklace, she flitted from sparkly vendor to sparkly vendor to scary skull vendor to sparkly vendor, all the time growing more and more anxious to do battle. 

Finally, the moment arrived. 

If only Sir Knight had known the ferociousness of this bright, mirthful fairy.

Sir Coren had a go at a Knight as well. 'Twasn't long until the Knight fell to Coren's sword. 

The Princess of Hearts had some fun of her own. A fierce archer, she got a bullseye after just a few practice arrows. She had her hand at dagger throwing as well. 

Sir Zachary tried his hand at axe throwing and eating a huge serving of chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick.

As we were about to leave, Garden Fairy and Sir Coren stopped to make a little music ... a masterpiece called, "Alia's Etude." 

 And what of the Wizard? He seemed too preoccupied with Magic to enjoy the Faire as much as he could have. We won't hold it against him, as a Wizard's curse best be avoided. 

 And they all lived fairly happily and uncursed through the rest of the day. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I'm being held captive by a newly minted one-year-old. She is asleep on me and I really need to go to the bathroom. So peaceful, I hesitate to disturb her. Sleeping beauty's mom is on her way to pick her up, but I'm unsure as to whether she'll arrive momentarily or when I've reached my maximum threshold. Tempted to call her to check on her eta, instead my attention is abruptly riveted on this suddenly animated little one. Her mouth moves as if she's speaking and her arm waves, hand opening and closing and pointing and gesturing. Her eyebrows spring to life and a smile creeps to her eyes. She becomes my world for these brief moments - all else paling in comparison to this amazing performance. 

My camera is just out of reach - oh, how I want to capture this moment for her Mama! By the time I get the attention of another of the children in my house, there's only time for a few quick photos before she startles herself awake with a loud giggle. I'm now able to hand this precious little one off guilt-free and sprint down the hall. It was close, but so very worth it!

It's difficult for me to believe that this little girl is one year old already, and she's not even mine. It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating Big Sister Day. She brings such joy to the world with her mere presence - even when she's sleeping! 

At church this evening, I sat in silence. Silence. It's one of my favorite parts of Evening Prayer. And then the words, the songs, the wonderful music. "Let my prayer rise before you as incense. A lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." 

As the words flowed from my lips, I was held captive in the flame of the candle before me, in the melody, the words, the communion of voices raised in prayer, in the sacred moment. 

There are moments in life that hold you captive. Replay them in your mind when your precious baby turns into a moody teen or when you need a moment of sanctuary amidst life's struggles. Moments that hold you captive are the stuff of life. Hold on to them. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Screwing Around

Disclaimer: This is not a typical rannygahoots post. It may contain some questionable subject matter. Or the author of this post may just be losing her mind a little. Or a lot. 

I came to a realization while at my friend Jackie's house for the first time a few weeks ago. A huge realization. You see, my husband had given me directions there from memory, as he'd been there many times before. I realized I never asked him for specifics as to what he was doing when he was over there. He was "helping her out."

When I got home I asked him  and he said he trimmed her bush and filled her hole with wood. Great. Fantastic. Just what I wanted to hear. 

And then there's my friend Renee. He goes to her apartment more frequently than I as well. And when I asked him about that, he was honest about what he does there, using words such as bang, screw, and nail. He even admitted he got into her drawers. 

Confronting Jackie about this, after the gathering at her house was over and everyone had left, she admitted that my husband did, indeed, stop by to "mow her lawn" or do some "gardening" on his way to work every once in a while. 
And Renee - she fully admits it, too! She even sent her drawers home with him so he could screw them here. 

You see, my husband is a very kind, helpful person. Since Jackie's back injury he's helped her out with yard work several times. He has planted trees, filled in a hole in her yard, mowed her lawn, trimmed her shrubs, and other such things. And he has helped Renee put heavy duty hooks in her wall to hold a heavy mirror, put a dresser drawer back together - he took it home in pieces to work on it - installed her air conditioner, and done other things requiring heavy lifting and the use of tools.  

Upon mentioning this to a friend, she was shocked that I'd allow my husband to spend hours alone at another woman's house. I have to admit that I was shocked that she was shocked. I trust my husband, and I trust my friends. It's a simple as that. 

What really shocked me was that you can put just about any household task in quotes and it sounds a bit dirty. I'm off to ask my husband to heat things up and do a little grinding. 

It's called "making coffee."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Relentlessly Connected

Apparently not having a smartphone has made me a horrible friend.

I'm not available 24/7 via phone, email, and social media. Even when I have my ancient Star Trek communicator cell phone with me, I sometimes let it go to voicemail if I've designated whatever activity I'm doing as phone-free time. I want to be in the moment with the people I'm with, not checking in with my phone every few minutes. I want to experience life as it's happening here in the real world, not in cyberspace. And no matter how much of your real life you post in cyberspace, it's not the same as the real world - my real world. 

It's not that I don't care about you. I do. But I don't feel the need to be relentlessly connected to you, to respond to your every text, your every post, your every phone call with the immediacy you may think it deserves. If it were a crisis, yes, of course I'd answer! I wouldn't hesitate to respond. But every worry, every bad moment, every cool thing, every joy, does not need my immediate condolence or applause.  I do not need to know what you are doing every second of every day, nor do I want you - or anyone - to know what I'm doing every moment of every day. 

I'm not trying to be insensitive to you, I'm trying to be sensitive to my needs and the needs of those around me. My children deserve to have all of me, my complete attention, when we're playing, singing, working on a project, teaching, learning, watching a movie together, and, most essentially, when we're sharing a meal together. They don't need me to be distracted by a device. They deserve the sacred space that can only be made in a technology-free setting. 

I sometimes don't get online or look at a phone for twelve entire hours. It's not because I'm not concerned about how my friends and loved ones are doing, it's because if it was something important, the message you leave on my old fashioned answering machine - the kind where you can hear the message as it's being left - will indicate such and I'll pick up the phone if I'm there, or get back to you if I'm not. Your name on my cell phone when I'm not expecting a call from you will alert me to the seriousness of your call. 

One more confession before I go - I also don't catch up on facebook like a good friend "should." If I've been "gone" for six hours or more, there's just too much to sift through and I just don't have the time. I do often go to close friends' pages to quickly update myself, but at times that's not even possible. I know. I suck. But I can no longer let social media and being at the beck and call of one electronic device or another get in the way of living my life and enjoying the people around me. 

And no, my kids don't have cell phones. Not even my teens. They won't until they have driver's licences and jobs and can pay for their own.  And even then, their cell phones will not be allowed at the table, or during family time, or in their rooms when they're supposed to be sleeping. And not for my peace of mind, but for theirs. It's my job as a parent to feed, clothe, love, teach, and set a good example for my kids - and to make sure they get a good night's sleep. I'll listen for their friends' emergency calls and alert my kids if necessary during the night. It's just one more service I'll be willing to provide. They can thank me later, after they get over being bad friends for not being relentlessly connected

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blessed Mess

I sit, thoughts swirling around me, yet unable to grasp any of them to get them down on paper. I am full to overflowing with this blessed mess that is life.

Listening to my kids working together to pull off a super-secret surprise, gratitude for such wonderful children fills me. Even the less than lovely bickering that eventually sneaks into their covert plans fails to faze me. Love lives in those words and in the souls who speak them. 

Feeling the pain wracking my body, all sense of motivation to get anything accomplished tries to flee, but I won't have any of that. There is work to do, spirits to nourish, young lives to inspire and be inspired by, and a beautiful day just on the other side of the door. Unwrapping myself from my comforter - aptly named, by the way, as I find it very comfortable and comforting - I encourage my reluctant body into action. Strange, and somewhat amusing sounds emerge from my body in a mix of effort, pain, and trying not to use inappropriate words in front of my children as I propel myself into action. I'm a blessed mess!

I decide I will help my husband with laundry - usually his job because of the stairs involved in the process. I bring a basket of dirty clothes to the laundry area, pull the clean clothes out of the dryer into another basket, then get interrupted by my eldest daughter as I put the clothes from the washer into the dryer. Turning the dryer on and starting the filling process with the washer, I wrap up my conversation with my daughter, grab the basket of clothes, and dump it onto the filling washer. As I squish the last of the load below the surface of the water, the realization that I put the clothes I had just taken out of the dryer into the washer whacks me upside the head. I'm washing the clean, formerly dry, clothes. I crank the washer to spin and laugh - so much for being helpful! 

In the van on the way to the farm a little while later, we crank the music, sing at the top of our lungs, and celebrate once more this day and its blessings. At these times, gratitude flows freely, worries seem far away. 

Returning home to my bed and my comforter, life's stresses once again try to seize me in their depressing grip - $500 in van repairs, who-knows-how-much worth of household fixes awaiting my husband's attention, bills piling up faster than paychecks, my body not cooperating with my treatment plan...and the list goes on. I take a few deep breaths and give thanks that we have this van and this house and my husband's job; that we have family that has our backs and that we are able to pay it forward every day by sharing our time and talents with others; that I have a diagnosis and a treatment plan and insurance that covers the more-than-my-house-is-worth a year cost of just one of my medications. The words of one of the songs we belted out on our drive echo in my mind...
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
And there it is. God is with us wherever we go, whatever we are going through, whatever mess we're in. God doesn't always step in and fix our messes, but knowing God is with us transforms our difficult times into BLESSED messes. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Notes to Self

  • Do not let the small girly child wear a shirt that snaps up the front to church. She will spend half of worship unsnapping the shirt and resnapping it in interesting configurations, some involving the snaps on the chest pockets and shoulders. She may also announce, really loudly, that the snaps on the chest pockets feel like her nipples only much harder.
  • Try not to agree to let children paint and then accidentally fall asleep immediately afterwards.
  • Avoid posting about increasing chest pain on facebook without first explaining that it's psoriatic arthritis-related and not a heart issue.
  • When you tell the kids you'll take them to Gramma and Papa's house in the afternoon, some of them will expect to leave the house at 12:01 pm and will ask you every three and a half minutes afterwards if it's time to go yet.
  • Never underestimate the power of a nap. It can transform both a cranky child and a cranky parent. 
  • If your husband explains the importance of being able to deal with spiders on your own without having Daddy help to the five year old - immediately before bed - by explaining to her that should she not learn how to deal with spiders she's going to suffer a lifetime of spiders crawling in her hair and her armpits and, and, and ... expect said five year old to have difficulty sleeping. For days. 
  • When you put something somewhere "safe" where you "won't lose it," also make a record in writing/text of that safe place so you can remember where the heck it is later.
  • You can make all the plans you want, but when it comes down to it, your body's behavior and your children's moods will dictate what actually gets done.
  • After a night of no sleep, make sure you have plenty of caffeine for yourself and lots of craft projects for the kids readily available.
  • Telling the children that any question they ask when you are on the phone will be answered with a "no" will not make them stop asking you questions when you're on the phone, it will merely encourage them to come up with questions that when answered "no" get them what they want. 
And last but not least ... you chose to have five kids, which means you chose to live in this insane asylum. Remember that the next time you're standing in the middle of the sheer chaos that this household can become. And remember how much you love every minute of it. 

Monday, September 16, 2013


When Coren was two, I played a game among friends online in which we had to take the first letters of our children's names and write something about them. I'll never forget his...


This came to mind the other day when I thought about how much this amazing child has grown and how different, and similar, he is to that cuddly little nursling. I can still see that two-year-old in those cheeks and the puppy-dog eyes. 

If I had to come up with one of these works of word today, on his eighth birthday, it would be


Ok, so I had to fudge that last part a bit. But it's true. He's still cuddly - something I cherish. His thirst to learn everything he can about everything he's interested in is unquenchable. He can talk at length about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, about Pokemon, about the worlds he creates in various online games and in drawings, and about the Lego creations he builds. Coren's imagination is endless, as is his ability to remember what he reads and hears. 

He is, most definitely, my favorite Moondragon ever. Even if I can't convince him he's turning six and not eight, because he couldn't possibly be eight already. Eight seems so old. Definitely much older than seven. Besides, he was just two. Really. 

Ok. Fine. He's eight. Big old headless snowman eight. An adorable eight, though. But don't tell him I told you that. If there's one thing Moondragons don't like to be called, it's adorable. And definitely not by their mothers. And definitely not at the dignified age of eight. 

Happy 8th Birthday, My Moondragon. I love you now and always and no matter what!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

An Ending

Fourteen years, six months, three weeks, four days. Five kids. And now it's over. Just like that. Two little words and it's over. 

Over that period of time, the relationships lasted anywhere from five years to over seven years, intertwining with each other to form fourteen and a half seamless years. 

The first year and a half as a couple was easy, after getting over some hurdles in the early weeks. Then we introduced someone new into the relationship and things got a little more complicated. Nearly two years after that, we added yet another to our relationship. Eventually the founding member of this relationship outgrew it and moved on, and shortly thereafter another new face joined to form this special bond. And another. 

Then one by one, they moved on to other things, no longer needing the bond that seemed so essential in the beginning. And now it's done. Over for good. The end of some of the most beautiful and intimate relationships of my life. 

Fourteen years, six months, three weeks, four days. That's a long time to have been breastfeeding without more than a day or two break. From the time Alexander latched on for the first time fourteen and a half years ago until Alia uttered the words, "I'm weaned!" a couple months ago, I have nursed at least one child just about every day. Alex nursed for five years - through two pregnancies, triandem nursing with Zachary and Haley. Zachary nursed for over seven years, through two pregnancies and into another, nursing with all his siblings except Alia, as he weaned during her pregnancy. Haley nursed for seven years as well, through two pregnancies and with all of her siblings at one time or another. Coren lasted six years, nursing with his older and younger sisters. Alia rounded things out at five years, five months, having nursed with Haley and Coren until they weaned. 

And to think my original goal when breastfeeding my first child was 6 weeks!

If you had asked me fourteen and a half years ago how long I'd last, I'd have said six months tops. If you'd have asked me five years ago how I would feel when Alia decided to wean, I'd have said sad. But that's not the case now. Now it feels right and good and complete. 

Thank you, God, for sending me a La Leche League Leader mother-in-law who encouraged me to breastfeed and a husband who expected nothing else. Thank you for guiding me to La Leche League of Naugatuck Valley with its knowledgeable Leaders and wonderful nursing mothers who became my friends, my tribe, and who taught me to trust my mother instincts and listen to my baby. Thank you for a family who trusted me to do what was best for my children, including the insane concept of not just nursing multiple children, but walking, talking, reading, math-doing children.  Thank you for friends who have been with me on this incredible journey. And thank you to all these people for seeing the beauty in breastfeeding and natural weaning. 

Two little words, "I'm weaned," changed my life forever. I'm no longer something I was for fourteen years, six months, three weeks, and four days - a breastfeeding mother. I feel like this should come as a shock to my system, but the truth is, I've been weaned gently and with love by each of my nurslings, the transition smooth. 

At peace with being a weaned mama, I look forward to the next chapter in my mothering journey. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Day to Treasure

Perhaps it was inspired by the tag-sale-scored ship's wheel or the unique configuration of decks behind our house. Maybe it was just because my kids love pirates. However it happened, since Coren's first birthday we've had a Pirate Party at our house every year. 

I'm not sure if the kids have more fun decorating for the party...

dressing up for it...
or spending time with friends the day of the party.

When asked what they like most about the party, some say following the treasure map or the clues...
to dig up treasure (really!) ...

while others more greatly enjoy the treasure itself. 

What I treasure most is sitting, chatting with friends, sipping mulled cider, and watching the joy on the kids' faces as they spend an afternoon living inside the world of their imaginations come to life. It's truly a day to treasure. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chronic Ailment Translator

Social media is going to be the death of me.

I've gotten into countless conversations over the past month where tone isn't clear because communication is happening via the internet, or where I'm talking with people who don't know me and read drama into simple factual sentences where there is none. This happens on message boards and facebook, via email and in chat rooms.

I've come to find that many people experience this - and moreover, many people who live with chronic illness experience this to the extreme.

A recent social media post elicited a response indicating that all I do is complain about my health, worry about things, and dwell on my needs and wants, totally lacking in gratitude for the wonderful things in my life. I was taken aback, as I try to see the blessings amidst the chaos whenever possible. Surprisingly, it's usually possible. The more I thought about it, the more clear it became how easily things can get lost in translation. 

Tone and intent are difficult to hear on the internet. Knowing someone's background, thought patterns, and sense of humor when you're more acquaintances than friends is nearly impossible. Perhaps looking through the eyes of chronic illness and chronic pain is a lot different than looking through eyes of relative health. Maybe when I'm posting in an isn't-this-funny-way, humor is not conveyed and it's instead taken seriously. What frames my life on any given day is often my pain and/or energy levels, a decent bit of faith, and a very odd sense of humor. It seems social media needs a special translator for people living with chronic illness: the Chronic Ailment Translator (CAT). 

Status Update: Thank God for kids who clean up from dinner, load the dishwasher, and put themselves to bed when Mama has a severe migraine...and also for a husband who stops and picks up helpful things on his way home from work.
Possible Perception: She's whining about having a migraine again.
Actual Translation: I am incredibly blessed to have responsible children and a kind husband who take care of me so well. 

Status Update: I have 12 quarts of chili, 4 quarts of veggie chili, and 3(ish) quarts of applesauce cooking in four crockpots and on the stove. Bread is going in the bread maker. Pirate treasure has been assembled. Is it time for my nap?
Possible Perception: She's whining about needing a nap again. 
Chronic Ailment Translation: I just did in a few hours what it took me all of last Summer to accomplish. Amazing, isn't it? But perhaps doing that amount of stuff in that short of a time was too taxing on my chronically ill body, especially since I didn't sleep well last night, so I shall joke, as I always do, about needing a nap, especially considering the incredible improbability of nap-taking due to the enormous horde of children in my house for whom I'm responsible.

Status: What a pain in the butt. Literally. I hurt my hip/lower back on the right side and have been told not to sit, stand, lay down, walk too much, and stay still too long by various health professionals. Apparently I need to learn to levitate.
Possible Perception: She's complaining about her health again. 
CAT: This is humor, people! Literal pain in the butt (haha). Fact: hip/lower back have been hurt - information needed to set up the rest of the post. Conflicting advice has been given, so learning to levitate seems the only viable option- what's a girl to do? Hahaha. 

Status: I was going to do things this afternoon. Instead I took a nap. I didn't mean to - it just snuck up on me.
Possible Perception: The freaking nap thing again!!!
CAT: This really needs translation? You've never sat down for a minute or two and awoken some time later having accidentally fallen asleep? Don't "normal" people experience this, too? Like my Dad after Christmas dinner? 

And so to everyone who comes in contact with me via the internet, I just want you to understand:
I can be tired, hurting, needing, wanting, and still be thanking God for all I have. I can discuss how people not living with chronic illness, etc. cannot understand what I'm going through while still praising God for everything I can do. To deny what I'm going through is to deny my life and my experience. I AM in pain (constantly, even on the only pain medication I can take, and often more pain than a normal person can tolerate), and I am tired (exhausted, really - it's part of the illnesses I have, and it's nothing that can be described to someone who hasn't experienced it - for goodness sake I nearly fell asleep WALKING the other day). I don't say this to complain, I say this and post about it because it's my life, it's my truth, it's what I live every day. I actually find humor in many of these situations and blessings in them all. These things are merely facts about my life. I say or post or blog these things in the same breath as I give thanks to God that I'm able to type, speak, even think. I communicate these things because there are many others going through the same things I am, and it's nice for all of us to know that we're not alone in our pain. I'm also allowed to at times be frustrated with my life and say so. That doesn't mean that I blame anyone or think anyone should fix my life. It also doesn't mean that I don't celebrate all the wonderful people and things God has put into my life - always. 

And I'll keep in mind that most people don't understand what it's life living with a chronic illness or chronic pain - and will try to be patient and kind in the midst of misunderstanding. 

Thanks to the very kind words of friends and family after my most recent bout of needing a CAT (Chronic Ailment Translator), things were resolved in a peaceful, loving manner. Sometimes I'm not so lucky. So whenever you're communicating with someone with a chronic ailment, always keep your CAT handy. If you don't have one, try Compassion, Amity, and Thoughtfulness.